MEDICINE HAT — The Alberta government will be practicing its own catch and release program after a federal amendment to provincial fishing regulations inadvertently landed innocent anglers with fines.
Since 2004, the Alberta Fishery Regulations — which falls under federal jurisdiction on national waterways — included offences for the use of barbed hooks for fishing.
But a Sept. 22, 2011, federal amendment to the regulation left out reference to the formally prohibited lures.
The omission went unnoticed for a year resulting in an estimated 600 anglers in the province being charged under the old statute with fines of between $100 and $200.
Alberta Justice has now revoked all warrants issued from unpaid fines, revoked current cases before the courts and is now embarking on dealing with wrongful convictions.
Brendan Cox of Alberta Justice said once the paperwork is done, the province can start repaying the fines.
Cox said it will be several weeks before the application is completed, a court date is set and a repayment process developed.
“We’re asking people to have some patience and we’re taking the necessary steps to make sure nobody is missed,” said Cox.
As for what caused the exclusion of the barbed hook regulation, Cox said, “when the federal government was making its amendments, barbed hooks was inadvertently dropped. . .It was essentially a miscommunication.”
He added a Crown prosecutor notified officials to the omission in the amendment when preparing for a case against an angler.
Cox and Alberta Environment spokeswoman Carrie Sancartier both now say the provincial regulation against barbed hooks no longer exists.
“We certainly encourage people to use barbless hooks because there are benefits. It helps maintain health fish stocks for current and future anglers,” said Sancartier.